Besana Brianza (Italy). On Sunday 10 September 2023, in the context of the patronal feast of Valle Guidino – Besana Brianza, in the Province of Monza and Brianza, a small park was named after Sister Anna Bonfanti, Daughter of Mary Help of Christians, missionary for more than 50 years in Mozambique (20 April 1939 – 13 October 2021).
The initiative was born from the pupils of class 5^B of the “Renzo Pezzani” Primary School of Villa Raverio who, guided by one of their teachers, surveyed the streets of the four hamlets of Besana – Villa Raverio, Calò, Vergo Zoccorino, and Valle Guidino – noting that out of 94 Streets, only two bear the name of a woman.
Amazed by this data, the children committed themselves to studying and getting to know some significant local female figures, including Sister Anna Bonfanti, a native of Valle Guidino, known to many and through whom many people from the village worked to support the mission in Mozambique.
On the recommendation of the Mayor, the children presented a formal request to the Municipal Council to dedicate the small park in Piazza San Francesco in Valle Guidino, recently redeveloped, to Sister Anna. The project was approved.
The feast began with the Eucharistic celebration, which was attended by the city authorities, Sister Anna’s family, a representation of the Alpine troops, the former students of the 5th B with their teacher, numerous children and citizens, and three Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of Holy Family Community of Contra di Missaglia (LC), of the Lombard Holy Family Province (ILO), including the Animator, Sister Emilia Musatti.
In the introduction to the Mass and in the homily, the Parish Priest, Fr. Mauro Malighetti, recalled the missionary dedication of Sister Anna, “a light of hope lit in Mozambique.”
At the end of the Eucharist, Sister Emilia Musatti read a brief greeting congratulating the children for the realization of the project, thanking on behalf of the Institute for this initiative, and recalling some aspects of the figure and work of this Sister:
“First of all, I would like to congratulate the children of the former 5th B who, accompanied by their teacher, dreamed, studied, and pushed for this project to be realized that promotes the knowledge and memory of a woman, of a great missionary Daughter of Mary Help of Christians, daughter of this land. You met a woman who had big dreams and with the help of God and everyone she had the courage to make them come true. May it be like this as well for you children and young people.
On behalf of our Institute, I also express heartfelt thanks for this recognition of the person of Sister Anna, who lived our educational charism with passion and courage. Together with the sisters of her Community with whom she dreamed and struggled, Sister Anna created great projects for the human, cultural, and Christian promotion of children, young people, and their families, especially young women in Mozambique.
Physically fragile, but strong and courageous in the realization of her missionary dreams, she demonstrated the truth of the words of St. Augustine, ‘When you love you don’t struggle, or if you struggle, the effort itself is loved.’ Sister Anna truly made the anguish and hopes of the Mozambican people her own, especially those of the young women with whom she loved, suffered, and hoped.
She was able to involve many people in the realization of her projects, especially family members who with creativity financially supported the educational works that sought to respond to the ‘cry’ emerging from the situations of war, poverty, and misery of the people.
Among the many, I remember ‘Don Bosco Center’ that can speak of many students who today are professionals in the fields of medicine and engineering, lawyers and teachers, but above all, women of faith and courage, mothers of families who fight for a better world”.
Sister Emilia concluded her talk by inviting the young people to welcome the ‘passing of the torch’ by Sister Anna.
The assembly then moved to the nearby Park. After the words of the Mayor, Emanuele Pozzoli, who recalled the process of the initiative, there was the unveiling of the plaque and the blessing by the Parish Priest (Unica TV service). The children of the former 5th then proclaimed some traits of Sister Anna’s personality, defining her as a strong, courageous, creative, competent, generous, altruistic, determined, and enterprising woman.
A significant moment was the reading of some parts of Sister Anna’s biography, “Switch on a light in Africa. The Mozambican woman: the future for a new world” elaborated by Giovanna Bonfanti, one of her sisters who had collected her stories and testimonies. A song by the Alpine troops on friendship and fraternity concluded the encounter which was followed by cordial refreshments.
Sister Anna Bonfanti was born in Valle Guidino, Besana Brianza, on 20 April 1939, into a deeply Christian family, the second child of 10 brothers and sisters. At the age of 23, she decided to leave everything to follow the Lord among the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. On 6 August 1965, she made her First Profession in Contra di Missaglia (LC). Over the next five years, she was in Turin, Rome, and Portugal for missionary preparation. On 30 August 1970, she left for Mozambique, a mission she had dreamed of for many years, then a Portuguese colony.
Her first destination was Chiure, in the north of the country, where she worked as a teacher at the Normal School, where teachers-catechists were prepared for the elementary schools scattered throughout the various missions of the Diocese. Her students, today grandparents, remember her with gratitude for being an excellent mathematics teacher, but above all, as a mother and friend. Her educational project had as its objective the moral and cultural growth of the African woman, who in local tradition was considered only in the family context.
In 1975, with the independence of Mozambique, the missionaries were forced to leave the country. The only place where they could still remain was Pemba, where Sister Anna was first a teacher and then Animator of the Community. She was a woman of great faith, tested and consolidated over time also in contact with the challenges of the regime.
In 1987, she was assigned to Mother Rosetta Marchese Community of Maputo Jardim, where she remained for 31 years. Seeing the educational needs of the younger generations, she began to organize professional courses in cutting and sewing, knitting, IT and English. She thus created Don Bosco Professional Center, which formed hundreds of young people, especially women. Her activity continued until a few months before her death, which occurred on 13 October 2021, when her health, which had always been very fragile, forced her to stay at home. Filial abandonment in the Lord also characterized this last period of her missionary life. Her faith was manifested daily in her sincere and grateful smile.